Like last week’s announcement that David Letterman was retiring in 2015, yesterday’s news that Stephen Colbert would take over CBS’ Late Show overshadowed Thursday’s primetime as the big action on TV. But that didn’t mean there was a lot going on last night. With its penultimate episode before next week’s Season 3 finale, Scandal (3.0/9) not unexpectedly ramped it up with more tension and potentially explosive outcomes. The Shonda Rhimes-produced drama also bopped up 3% among adults 18-49 compared with last week’s season low. Lead-in Grey’s Anatomy (2.5/8) dipped 7% from its April 3 episode. With Once Upon A Time In Wonderland wrapped up for good last week, ABC kicked off its Thursday primetime with a special Shark Tank (1.6/6). The first of a two-nighter, the entrepreneurial reality series was down 20% from its last regular Friday airing on April 4 but gave ABC a six-month high in adults 18-49 for the 8 PM slot. With a 2.4/8 rating, ABC was tied with CBS for the 18-49 top spot, but the latter finished first in total viewers with 9.76 million.
Bazinga! CBS and Warner Bros. Television have reached a deal for a three-year renewal of broadcast TV’s top entertainment series, The Big Bang Theory, that would keep the hit comedy on the air through the 2016-2017 season, the series’ 10th. No one is commenting, but I hear the license fee is in the $4 million-$5 million range per episode (closer to $4 million), a high number for a comedy series. This marks Big Bang‘s second consecutive three-season pickup, a commitment reserved only for the biggest shows on television. While it is the biggest deal by far, Big Bang is not the only WBTV comedy in renewal talks with CBS. I hear the network and the studio also are in discussions on the other three Chuck Lorre series, with a 13-episode final season of Two And A Half Men eyed along with renewals for next season of Mike & Molly and freshman Mom.
With the Big Bang license deal secured, WBTV and CBS will turn their attention to the cast. There had been some overtures but no real negotiations so far with original cast members Johnny Galecki, Jim Parsons, Kaley Cuoco-Sweeting, Simon Helberg and Kunal Nayyar, whose contracts are up at the end of this season. (Big Bang’s other regulars, Mayim Bialik and Melissa Rauch, closed new deals last fall.) Put on hold while license fee negotiations were going on, talks with Galecki, Parsons and Cuoco are expected to kick into gear soon. Currently at about $350,000 per episode, the three leads are projected to get to the Friends cast mark of $1 million an episode.
Probably no network would’ve benefited by a football boost on Thursday more than NBC, which has been struggling mightily on the night. Instead, the NFL’s Thursday primetime games went to the network that regularly wins the night, CBS, with the biggest scripted show on television, comedy The Big Bang Theory. By snatching half of the NFL Thursday package, CBS ensures that its Thursday lineup won’t have to face football on another broadcast network. The limited scope of the commitment — eight weeks, half of the length of Sunday Night Football on NBC — and its timing early into the TV season (NFL Network got the late-season games) are expected to have lesser impact on CBS’ Thursday schedule than SNF has on NBC. That means that Big Bang Theory, which has been anchoring CBS’ Thursday lineup since fall 2010, most likely will stay put.
Two of the eight games will air before the beginning of the TV season, so CBS will launch its regular Thursday lineup at the beginning of November this fall. With networks more and more staggering their fall rollouts, that is not that late. (The CW has been employing an October fall rollout for the past couple of seasons.) CBS can use its fall-launch marketing dollars for the rest of the nights and then rely on football to hype its Thursday shows. I hear the promotional opportunity for the Thursday primetime football games was a big draw for CBS brass as they can get more eyeballs for the trailers of their new shows in the two weeks leading to the beginning of the season. Additionally, NFL football gives extra ratings muscle to a night where CBS already has been dominant and where advertisers traditionally love to spend premium dollars heading into the weekend.
Last week, the latest numbers for Modern Family‘s freshman run in syndication came out. The Emmy winning ABC comedy, which airs on USA and in broadcast syndication, hit new combined highs in all key measures, including households (5.1), Adults 18-34 (3.1) and Adults 18-49 (3.1). Modern Family now ranks as the No.2 program in all of syndication among 18-49 behind The Big Bang Theory (3.4) and is No.1 in 18-34. At the same time, the season to date rankings for all broadcast programs came out, and Modern Family is averaging 5.0 in 18-49 in 18-49 through the first 12 weeks of the season (in most current ratings that include DVR playback). That is not bad, as Modern Family is tied with NBC’s The Blacklist for No.3 in 18-49 behind Sunday Night Football (7.9) and Big Bang (6.8). But vs. the same 12 weeks last season, Modern Family is down 21%. That despite the show’s solid start in syndication.
The Quiet Before The Storm: Warner Bros TV Readies Offers To ‘The Big Bang Theory’ Cast, In Talks With CBS For New 3-Year Deal
For long-running series, time is usually not on the side of the cast when they have to negotiate new deals because ratings inevitably erode as shows get older. But that will not be the case with CBS‘ The Big Bang Theory, which, in Season 7, is still at its peak. Things are quiet and there has been no movement yet on the actors, but I hear producing studio Warner Bros TV will likely go out to the three leads — Johnny Galecki, Jim Parsons and Kaley Cuoco – after the first of the year. The contracts of the trio, along with original cast members Simon Helberg and Kunal Nayyar, are up at the end of this season, as is CBS’ deal for the show with WBTV. I hear the studio and the network have started discussions about a new license fee deal. Like the last one, I hear the renewal will likely be for three seasons, which means the studio and the network would likely try to lock in Galecki, Parsons, Cuoco, Helberg and Nayyar for the same term. (Big Bang‘s other regulars, Mayim Bialik and Melissa Rauch, recently closed new deals.) Like the last time, in 2010, Galecki, Parsons and Cuoco are expected to go first, followed by Helberg and Nayyar. (The former three are repped by the same law firm, Hansem, Jacobson, Teller, and are expected to negotiate together.)
There is no doubt about it — both the license fee and cast deals will be huge. After all, Big Bang Theory is the biggest show on broadcast television. The comedy is running neck and neck with NBC’s Sunday Night Football for the highest-rated program this season adults 25-54, averaging a 8.6 in the most current ratings to SNF’s 8.8. The way Big Bang has separated itself from the pack is staggering. Among adults 18-49, Big Bang averages a 6.8, with the next three series — NBC’s Blacklist (5.0), ABC’s Modern Family (5.0) and NBC’s The Voice (4.9) — almost two rating points behind.
In May 2010, a day after CBS announced Big Bang‘s move to Thursday 8 PM from its protected Monday 9:30 PM berth, I wrote a column, Is ‘Big Bang Theory’ The Next ‘Friends’? At the time, I felt the multi-camera comedy about a group of friends held the promise to become as successful as its NBC predecessor in the Thursday 8 PM slot. Big Bang has more than delivered on that promise. It is even more dominant than Friends was in its heyday, positioning itself to contend for the type of blockbuster deals Friends – produced by the same studio, WBTV — landed in its last major renegotiation for Season 9. At the time, WBTV broke a record for the highest license fee scored by a half-hour series when NBC agreed to pay $7 million an episode.
Modern Family debuted at No. 1 with women among all syndication premieres in more than a decade, distributor Twentieth Television noted today, citing Nielsen’s newly-released stats. The ABC comedy, produced by 20th Century Fox Television, debuted at No. 2 in households among all syndication premieres over the same period, with a 4.1 household rating — behind only The Big Bang Theory‘s fall of 2011 syndication launch (4.5). The numbers reflect the comedy’s launch both in broadcast and cable syndication. Here’s the announcement: